Top 10 Movies from 2021 Without an Oscar Nomination
Updated: Mar 30, 2022
It’s Oscar Sunday! As I said at the start of this series, the Oscars presents a specific kind of film to a specific kind of viewer, but that ultimately means a lot of really fantastic movies tend to get completely overlooked; that’s where this list comes in. Here are 10 amazing movies from 2021 without a single Oscar nomination. If you think I missed one, drop the title in the comments!
10. The French Dispatch. While this was definitely one of Wes Anderson’s more lackluster films—especially when compared to a masterpiece like 2014’s The Grand Budapest Hotel—I still think it was a fun exploration of the media’s objectivity (or lack thereof), as well as a biting look at how society tends to unnecessarily deify reporters. Anderson definitely could have leaned into these themes, but for what it is, it’s a decent watch.
9. Evangelion 3.0+ 1.0. Hideaki Anno’s final installment in the Neon Genesis Rebuild is epic in every sense of the word. From the literally universe-shattering battle sequences to the intense mediations on humanity, class, love, family, loss and so much more, surely they could/should have given this one some appreciation. Best Animated Feature of 2021? If you ask me, the answer is: absolutely. Without a doubt.
8. Passing. Tessa Thompson gave such a wonderful performance in this exploration of race, colorism and class that I was shocked to find out she wasn't in the talks for Best Actress. Regardless of what the Academy thinks, this is a phenomenal piece of filmmaking with stunning visuals, a killer script and—as aforementioned—some serious acting performances. You won't be disappointed!
7. Old Henry. WHAT. A. MOVIE! I only get 10 spots here, so I’m also going to use this slot to suggest you watch The Harder They Fall if you like Westerns. We seem to be in the midst of a genre revival, and I couldn’t be happier. Westerns are such a fascinating and entertaining way to explore themes of class, family and the often-violent foundations of modern America, and Old Henry—along with The Harder They Fall—is no exception to any of this. Watch these movies!
6. Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy. I’ve already said that I think Hamaguchi deserves Best Director this year, not only because Drive My Car IS the best movie of 2021, but also because, somehow in the midst of filming it, he also found enough time to make this subtle, beautiful film as well. So much is covered here, from friendship to love to sexual orientation, and it’s done in such a subtle way, with flourishes of Éric Rohmer’s films clearly being a huge influence on Hamaguchi’s approach. I also love how each of the scenarios we’re presented with is centered around the concept of coincidence, it adds a whimsical yet profound nuance to each narrative. One of my favorites of last year, you simply must watch this movie!
5. Memoria. WOW is all I can say anytime I watch anything by Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Leaving his native Thailand for what I believe is the first time, this newest film by one of my favorite auteurs locates viewers in Colombia, and is a fascinating look into alienation, historical trauma and what it means to inhabit a place. NEON simply made a mess of the distribution at first, but at least now they have a schedule out. If you happen to see it playing in a theater near you, be sure to watch! It’ll never leave theaters according to NEON, and it’ll never be released on home video either, so you have plenty of time to get the theater experience.
4. Red Rocket. This is the first Sean Baker film I’ve ever watched, but it won’t be the last. Red Rocket is intense, wild and hilarious, but also maybe one of the most important movies of 2021. What a bleak, sobering look at the harm caused by the American Dream, and an exploration of the abuse our system is built on. Also, they used the same cinematographer who shot Euphoria’s first season, so definitely be sure to watch this, if only for the visuals. A stunning film in almost every way, from the acting to the painterly shots to the script writing, just a fantastic movie.
3. C’mon C’mon. Mike Mills gave us one of the more intimate, personal explorations of family, loss and mental health I’ve ever seen in his latest film. Along with Joaquin Pheonix and Woody Norman giving show-stopping performances (which is especially impressive for Norman considering he’s barely reaching his teenager years), the cinematography is also something to behold, as well as the sound design. C’mon C’mon is bound to make you feel something, even if it’s just a sense of awe that such a great movie could be created.
2. Days. The second this finished playing, I immediately hit replay. Then I thought about it for the rest of that day. Then I rewatched it again the next day. This film made me a huge fan of Tsai Ming-Liang, one of the last real bastions for slow cinema along with Lav Diaz. It’s the closest I’ve ever seen a film get to becoming a poem, and I appreciate the anti-consumerist approach Tsai Ming-Liang took on so many levels here, from refusing to put subtitles to there being almost no dialogue. Don’t go into this film expecting the trappings of plot. Instead, just surrender to what it is you’re watching, and it’s almost guaranteed you’ll come away being as mind blown as I was. It’s as if Wong Kar Wai and Andrei Tarkovsky were put in a blender, a tender dive into themes of alienation and what it means to have human connections in contemporary class society. Just a stunning film, easily my favorite on this list.
1. The Green Knight. While Days is my favorite movie on this list, I understand why it was overlooked by the Academy. That’s why I’m making The Green Knight my #1 snub of the 2022 Oscars. Best Visual Effects, Best Cinematography, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Costume Design, Best Score, Best Production Design, this movie could and should have been nominated in any of these categories! I’m almost convinced director David Lowery did something to piss off the higher-ups in the Academy, ‘cos this film being so overlooked simply makes no sense to me. It’s a truly refreshing and thoroughly-engrossing look at a classic epic poem, with some really stunning acting, a great score and fantastic visuals.